?As has been often noted, being a famous and important historical figure has always been a double-edged sword: the more omnipresent you are in culture, the more open to misinterpretation and ridicule. Who knows how the shapers of nations shall be remembered? Sometimes the once-great become infamous, and sometimes the minor and obscure are afforded greatness. And sometimes, a person can go from a populist and influential leader to a rapping cartoon character in just a century and some change. I am referring, of course, to one of our grizzliest presidents, Abraham “The Tank” Lincoln.
What’s interesting about Lincoln is the variety of ways he has been portrayed in popular media, starting with the mid-’90s. Sure, you have the straight biopic approach (or will, if Spielberg ever actually finishes “Semi-titled Abraham Lincoln Project” now that Neeson has jumped ship). But for some reason, Lincoln, even more than the larger-than-life presidents like Teddy Roosevelt and Washington (Wash-ing-ton) seems to naturally lend himself to absurd, over-the-top, and just plain random characterizations. It could be his omnipresence in American culture, or perhaps just because he had a beard and a somewhat amusing hat. These are the most bizarre versions of the president I could find in pop culture, excluding examples in porn (which is a list for another, far more desperate website. I hope).
12) Racist Alternate History Lincoln, CSA: The Confederate States of America
CSA is a maddening tootsie roll pop of a movie: a genuinely intriguing, well-thought-out speculative chocolate speck entombed in a harsh, impenetrable layer of monotonous and mostly unfunny racial jokes. The film is presented as a modern-day historical documentary in an alternate universe where the South won “the War of Northern Aggression” (and yes, there was no Emancipation Proclamation and slaves are sold on QVC). In this version of events, Jefferson Davis assumes the presidency and a disgraced Lincoln attempts to escape the country in blackface via the underground railroad. After being arrested and tried for war crimes (while Harriet Tubman is executed as a traitor), Lincoln is eventually freed and allowed to live the rest of his life in Canada as an exile. History depicts him not as a mighty emancipator but as an insignificant buffoon, remembered only briefly in such artifacts as the mock D.W. Griffith film shown in the clip.
11) Ghost Lincoln, The Venture Bros.
“Guess Who’s Coming to State Dinner?” is not considered one of the finest Venture Bros. episodes by most fans (fansite The Mantis Eye Experiment lists it as the lowest-ranked of all), but it does contain a great supporting guest character in Lincoln’s ghost, who appears to Hank and Dean in an attempt to stop a sinister assassination plot. Unfortunately, being a ghost, he is immaterial, but he can manipulate any object that bears his face, so he gets the bright idea to cover himself with five-dollar bills in order to penetrate a force field surrounding the oval office. He succeeds, though not without looking like some sort of papier-mache nightmare: it’s no wonder Rusty assumes him to be something his brother made.
10) Homoerotic Lincoln, “Gay Bar”
What makes this Gaybraham so insane isn’t the parade of kinky outfits or the boudoir scene or even (God help us) the disturbing hamster shot: for me at least, it’s the fact that they’re all played (more or less) by lead singer Dick Valentine, suggesting that Lincoln is having a gay orgy with himself. Whatever you think of the song, you have to admit that this is a fascinating re-examination of our 16th president. Doris Kearns Goodwin, eat your fucking heart out.
9) Teenage Clone Lincoln, Clone High
Part of MTV’s last gasp of original animated programming, Clone High was a high-concept but low-execution cartoon set in a high school populated by clones of famous historical figures. For some reason, the central character was Abe, who in this version was your typical mopey nice-guy teenager, forever chasing after Cleopatra while Goth best friend Joan of Arc pines for him. I’m still not entirely sure why Lincoln was chosen as the protagonist, but in a show like this, I guess the only answer is: why not? Although he is completely unlike the Lincoln we know in personality, he at least looks like him, already sporting a beard in his junior year (which is earlier than the original Lincoln grew his, of course. Maybe the cloning process increases testosterone: if so, that must be one horny clone).
7 & 8) Brooklyn Lincoln and Mustardayonnaise Lincoln, Mr. Show
The indescribably awesome slice of genius pie that was Mr. Show gave us two fresh perspectives on Mr. L. The first, appearing in the last episode of the show’s inaugural season, has Honest Abe appearing alongside Franklin, Jefferson, and Button Gwinnett in a hallucinatory flashback brought on in an attempt by a performance artist to sue the American Flag for being impossible to shit on. No, it doesn’t make any more sense in context: the important thing is Tom Kenny’s masterful and inexplicable performance as Lincoln, adopting bug eyes and a New York Italian-American accent. Believe it or not, he ends up proving surprisingly educational (I bet you didn’t know the real reason there are so many stars on the flag).
This other Lincoln is several further steps into the log cabin of madness. It’s actually second in a series of commercials about condiments that combine mustard and mayonnaise. Jay Johnston’s portrayal comes with a bunch of kick-ass accessories, including a Tommy Gun, amazing white-yellow suit and a killer entrance line. Why there’s no action figure of this dude is one of life’s many cruel mysteries.
5 & 6) Abraham Lincoln Bot and Evil Lincoln, Futurama
?Lincoln’s appearances on Futurama have been pretty minimal, but are still memorable in their own way. The episode “Insane in the Mainframe” took Fry and Bender to an insane asylum for robots, one of whose residents was a schizophrenic Lincoln android who had several personalities, all of them Lincoln (he subsequently took to announcing that he was “born in 200 log cabins”). And during the Holoshed malfunction scene in “Kif Gets Knocked Up a Notch”, a variety of evil historical/fictional characters are unleashed on the real world, including an axe-wielding version of our former president. It’s not revealed what simulation he comes from, exactly, but just judging from the look on this creepy guy’s face it’s got to be pretty fucking horrifying.
4) Various Rapping Lincolns
I tried my damnedest to find that Simpsons clip with the rapping animatronic Lincoln from Duff World’s Beer Hall of Presidents, but nothing doing. Too bad, since it was such an accurate piss-take on all things Disney. But the idea of Mr. Abe spitting out rhymes has been explored on a few different occasions, including a couple fan-made numbers available on the tubeternets. For the most prominent, we turn to Epic Rap Battles of History. Now, some of you may not like this series of loud, semi-obnoxious, heavily green-screened inter-historical 8 Mile-ing, and that’s okay, but if we are to talk about Lincoln silliness, we simply have to acknowledge this. Lincoln’s rap opponent is Chuck Norris, so Abe is at a disadvantage right off the bat, but he actually gets a few good jabs in. Not to mention his wildly inappropriate yet vastly amusing grill. I don’t understand why his putting Norris’ chest hairs in his mouth is supposed to be threatening but it certainly spooked me.
3) Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter
?Vampires, vampires, vampires: with their sudden resurgence in popularity, it was but a brief matter of time before they got around to menacing the mid-19 century United States. Yep, with the publication of this Seth Grahame-Smith effort, the Great Emancipator joined the ranks of Buffy Summers, Captain Kronos and Jesus Christ as a slayer of the fanged undead. I know, I know: this video has been featured before, but again, there’s no way we can avoid mentioning it as yet another way in which Lincoln has grown even larger in his already mammoth image. Also, it’s pretty kickass, and since the book has supposedly been optioned for a movie, we can only hope that whatever final product we get lives up to this trailer.
2) Space Lincoln, Star Trek
So you’re flying around in your starship in the 23rd century, checking out some volcanic planet, when all of a sudden Abraham Lincoln shows up on your viewscreen. No, he’s not actually on the planet; he appears to floating around in the vacuum of space on a big, comfy chair. Does he get your attention? You’re goddamn right he does. Although the Space Lincoln of the classic Trek episode “The Savage Curtain” seemed to have a pretty level head on his shoulders — also, he was kind of a sentient rock alien in reality — he still cruised through space on a chair, and attacked Genghis Khan with a sharpened stick. Plus, he is without a doubt the forefather of all insane Lincolns throughout pop culture.
1) Time Lincoln
Believe it or not, there are multiple instances of Time Lincolns appearing in popular culture as well. Most of us are probably most familiar with the phrase from the Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie, where a time-hopping super-scientific Lincoln played a brief and maybe-not-even-that-important-overall role in keeping Frylock alive before being shot and changing history (it should be noted that ATHF has also featured Samurai Lincoln as one of Meatwad’s possible shapes, which would make this list if it was more than just a one-off joke).
?But there’s also Fred Perry’s Time Lincoln comic series, a suitably silly/awesome steampunk adventure in which Abe is rescued from his assassination by H.G. Wells’ time machine and warps around fighting Nazis and Communists in the 20th century, all while encountering various other historical figures from JFK to Amelia Earhart. See, this is the Liam Neeson Lincoln movie I would totally see. Especially if they kept those sick goggles.